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When Mystical Creatures Attack! (Iowa Short…
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When Mystical Creatures Attack! (Iowa Short Fiction Award)

by Kathleen Founds

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"It was really quite a shame-I really enjoyed the format and the humor is very present (a rarity-humor being one of the hardest things to write!) but the characterization and stories were disappointing."
read more: http://likeiamfeasting.blogspot.gr/2016/07/when-mystical-creatures-attack-kathle... ( )
  mongoosenamedt | Aug 1, 2016 |
Some of the cover blurbs on this refer to it as a collection of stories. I find this a little confusing, as to me it's pretty clearly a novel, albeit a very odd, very short novel. I mean, the same characters appear throughout, there's a narrative progression through time, and I'm not at all sure how well any of the chapters would stand on their own as stories. But maybe the confusion is understandable, because if it is a novel, it's an unusually structured one. Parts of it are told in the form journal entries, student writing assignments, an online advice column, and various other offbeat formats; the traditional-narrative parts vary between first and second person; and while it can be regarded as a unified whole, it's a very loose sort of whole.

There's also an odd contrast between structure and subject matter. There's a real sense of playfulness in the format, and, indeed, there's a lot of humor here, but it's really dark humor, and the story -- which focuses primarily on the lives of a high school teacher and one of her students -- features such cheery topics as mental illness, poverty, eating disorders, teen pregnancy, miscarriage, suicide, and both the good and bad aspects of religion.

The result is interesting, mostly in a good way, but its inventiveness, for me, teetered back and forth a bit between feeling clever and feeling kind of gimmicky. And in the end, for all its dark subject matter, it feels a bit slight. Still, it was a quick and sometimes intriguing read, and parts of it are surprisingly poetic. ( )
  bragan | Feb 24, 2015 |
www.readingbifrost.com

“Plenty of teachers have thrown a terrarium out a window and shouted, ‘You’re driving me crazy!’ But you’re the first who actually followed through.”

First off I have to say that this book wasn’t at all what I first expected. I expected a witty commentary about how a school teacher in the midst of a midlife crisis is handling school systems, parents, and disrespectful students. What I got instead was a book full of life lessons learned through experience and through the eyes of others.

The three main characters are Laurel Freedman- the teacher- and two of her students, Janice and Cody. Laurel’s mother had mental problems of her own, and her father wasn’t exactly “Father of the Year” material, but she was a young teacher determined she would change the world through her students. BUT, she suffers from a mental disorder (bipolar?) which eventually leads her to a mental breakdown- which is really where the novel begins (our story here isn’t linear).

Janice was abandoned by her mother as a child, and left to live with her aunt when her father remarries. Her character is a hurting teenage girl with a problem “acting out” for attention.

Cody is the dreamer/geek of the group. His short stories are my favorite featured in the novel and will most likely get the most laughs.

There are times when the point of view switches to second person, which really just confuses the story and made me want to skim over those parts. The rest of the story is first person from one character to another through letters, e-mails, cookbook recipes, and short stories- which really worked. I don’t know why there were sudden switches to second person that just blew off the flow of the story.

Overall, I would recommend When Mystical Creatures Attack to anyone who enjoys novels with mixed media (email, letters, etc…) and that’s hits serious topics but still a bit on the silly side. ( )
  ReadingBifrost | Oct 14, 2014 |
I am still laughing my head off at this one! This is a Fiction book that is a hilarious joyride for adult readers.

Ms. Freedman, a High School English teacher gives her students a journal writing prompt where they are required to write a one page story in which their favorite mystical creature resolves the greatest socio-political problems of our time.

This results in essays titled: How the Vampire Resolved the Global AIDS Crisis, among other off the chain tales.

Ms. Freedman ends up having a break down and sent to an insane asylum where she exchanges letters with some of her students.

This book is fun and a joy to read. It isn’t for everyone, but if you are an open minded person this book is a must read!

I received this book from NetGalley and University of Iowa Press in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  January.Gray | Sep 20, 2014 |
What a delightfully silly book. It wanders all over the place, but never strays far from the story of a madwoman who taught her students how to be crazy too. The tale is told via pages of essays & communications, snippets of recipes, and bits of paperwork from the insane asylum. It is a mishmash of delight that I finished in one sitting. ( )
  Nightwing | Sep 12, 2014 |
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A collection of stories, which connect when Ms. Freedman, following a nervous breakdown, corresponds from the asylum with two students from her high school English class. The lives of Janice, Cody, and Ms. Freedman are revealed through in-class essays, letters, therapeutic journal exercises, an advice column, a reality show television transcript, a diary, and a Methodist women's fundraising cookbook. Set against a South Texas landscape, these stories range from laugh-out-loud funny to achingly poignant.… (more)

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